View Full Version : Advice for potential Epson R-D1 convert

05-23-2005, 10:54
Hi there,

At the moment, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I've never used a rangefinder camera before, either film or digital, unless it was when I was very young and just don't remember, but I suspect I've never even seen a rangefinder except in online photos. This post is very long and I've probably provided much more information than you need, but I'm hoping to get some useful advice from R-D1 users and/or converts from Canon EOS DSLRs.

I currently use a Canon EOS 20D, mostly with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. I have bought and sold numerous other EF lenses over the past two years, but I never kept any of them for longer than about six months, but I could never quite put my finger on any good reason why I sold them - except for the fact that I HATE carrying around so much weight on my back/hips. I'm 5'8" and 130lbs., but I don't consider myself all that strong. Even if I were, my own personal "style", if you will, for everything in my life is "less is more." I just hate having so much stuff to get in the way of experiencing life. I'm also a big fan of being as unobtrusive as possible; that's the way I do web design as well. I guess it's like a universal personal aesthetic I have. I hope this makes at least a little bit of sense.

I've just finished the final project for my interdisciplinary master's degree and am about to get my business started. I can't say I'd be too excited about doing corporate photography like advertising and such. It's just not my style and it doesn't arouse my passion really. I'm more interested in photojournalistic and fine art travel and culture photography. I might do some weddings and such, but only for clients who appreciate a photojournalistic style. The one catch is that I LOVE animal photography as well, though I'm not into birds so much. Of course, a lot of it can be done without those back-breaking telephoto lenses as long as the animals are domesticated or in a controlled environment, but the pundits lead us to believe that we MUST HAVE 600mm+ if we want to be competitive - I can barely handle carrying around a 200mm+TC around for a few hours, and I'm not happy with the picture quality once I get home to my computer. I also prefer NOT to use flash. Every once in a while I'll use fill flash, but I've had two different Canon speedlites in the past but sold them both after only using each a few times. I usually expose manually using an in-camera meter because I think it's helping me to learn photography better than if I were to let the camera pick my exposures all the time.

OK, so here's my dilemma. I've started selling off my remaining EF lenses, except for the 50mm prime. As soon as I know how much money that will bring in, I was planning to sell my 20D and 50mm as well so I could buy an R-D1. I weighed the pros and cons for a fairly long time and thought I'd come to a definitive decision. But I'm having a few last reservations that I was hoping you rangefinder users could help me with.

I've never used a manual focus camera, but all my EOS lenses have had full-time manual focus capabilities, which I've had to use more often than I originally anticipated due to "hunting" issues and the like. To me, it's almost like it defeats the purpose of having auto focus if it doesn't even work properly half the time. Of course, I'm not nearly as experienced yet as most of you probably are, so this could be partially due to operator error, but I don't think I should have to compromise what I want to create simply because the machine overrules me according to its own will. I'm also a bit weary about switching to ONLY manual focus because I'm not currently familiar with how to use a rangefinder, so I'm afraid the learning curve will put me farther behind and I'm afraid I might stink at it and end up with remorse for ditching SLR.

Another problem is that if I do this, I have no choice but to sell my DSLR in order to finance the R-D1 and a Leica 35mm Summilux f/1.4 because I cannot afford to have two cameras or even two lenses for that matter - at least not until I get my business running smoothly. On forums all over the place I keep reading that professional photographers have to have Nikon or Canon or similar in order to get clients (I'm not sure if the same is true outside the U.S.). They say that customers won't take you seriously if you have such a tiny camera, even if it is of better quality, because they can't see past its physical size. They also say you need all the additional features that SLR provides, including burst rates, that fancy new Canon flash metering, autofocus, etc. What I can't figure out is if they're just saying that to scare potential competition into opting for another career path or if they really know photographers who have trouble getting work without the latest, greatest DSLR.

I thought maybe I'd get a Powershot S2 IS or a Lumix FZ20 for doing extra-long telephoto shots, since most of those would be for myself or for books, magazines, online, stock, etc. anyway and wouldn't necessarily need a full-frame sensor for quality. But maybe after getting the hang of a rangefinder I'll find that I really don't need a super-long lens like I thought I would.

If I do opt for an R-D1 and love it, I'll probably save up my pennies to get an M-Digital if and when they are released. But Leica's financial situation is a bit scary, especially since the lens I'm planning to buy costs $2500 U.S. from B&H. I need it to last me literally FOREVER, and since I take such good care of my equipment I have no doubts that it would last me my whole life barring some freak accident.

The last final reservation is the different between the 20D's 8mp sensor and the R-D1s 6mp sensor. On the samples I've looked at from this site and others, I can't tell much of a difference. Can I make just as big of prints from the R-D1 as the 20D? Will Genuine Fractals take care of quality upsizing to 20x30 and bigger because I already have a copy of that I've never used if you think it would alleviate my concerns.

Before you ask, going to film is not an option for me. I've invested way too much time, money, and energy becoming proficient at RAW processing and Photoshop, and I've got the astronomical student loans to prove it. Had I known I'd decide to become a full-time photographer when I started graduate school, I'd probably have quit then and saved myself 20 years of payback misery. Alas, the whole hindsight clich.

Anyway, as you can see I'm really up in the air about this. Something deep inside me tells me that my personality and style would feel more at home with the simplicity and unobtrusiveness of a rangefinder. But that nagging propaganda voice is telling me that I'll starve, or end up working a desk job (something that would send a person like me to the looney bin sooner rather than later), if I don't keep my 20D and eventually upgrade to a 1DsMII. I'm not a follower by nature, which I guess is why I'm having this crisis in the first place.

Any serious advice would be greatly appreciated and taken under consideration. But please, no trolls or mean people because this is really important to me, and I can't ask anyone around here because there are no Leica dealers in this state and the camera dealers here all say Canon, Nikon, or die and insist that I need a 600mm prime lens and a bomb-proof Gitzo if I expect to compete with them. Plus, many opinions I've read online insist the only people using Leica, or rangefinders for that matter, are washed-up, curmudgeonly technophobes who'll have themselves buried with their film because the digital gurus couldn't pry it from their cold, dead hands.

I know this sounds extreme, but it's basically my creative interpretation of what I've been reading just about everywhere except this forum and the Leica forum. Apparently there aren't many people my age who would consider abandoning the auto-focus SLR realm like this (I'm 28), so I'm feeling rather annoyed that I can't seem to just accept my Canon and be done with it because it IS a very good camera.

Now that my story has become almost unnavigable at this point, I'll open it up for sincere, honest replies.

05-23-2005, 12:33
I'm sorry, I just realized that what I wrote about Leica photographers at the bottom of my first post didn't make it perfectly clear that for all practical purposes I don't agree with what I've read online. I don't want to belittle those who think Leica is too old school for them, but for me, I just can't get into the vibe all that well dragging around a two-ton DSLR brick - and I guess I'm mostly looking for confirmation that you can make a living at this without an SLR. I've even read on the Leica forums that some photographers are selling work taken with a Digilux 2, so I know it should be possible, but I'm still conflicted at this point because it is a big investment. But what good does it do me to have a camera at all unless I can carry it with me everywhere? With my 20D, I only take it with me when I'm specifically going somewhere to take pictures. If I had an R-D1, I think I'd take it with me every time I leave the house.

MP Guy
05-23-2005, 12:49
Buy the lens from one of or sponsors. You will get better price and better support.

05-23-2005, 12:58
I do not own the RD-1, nor have I ever owned any digital camera besides my old Nikon D70 (which I sold). The reasons pros and amateurs buy DSLRs is for the following reasons:

lenses - they can use all their old lenses on the digital body
the lenses, because you are pushing light through larger spaces, are
clearer than those micro-looking things in some point and shoot digitals.
They can buy lenses that have quality optics and will make the most of
the CCD.

Viewfinders - DSLRs have nicer viewfinders than the little digitals, and some
people really prefer the TTL viewing. They can switch between all
those lenses, and see exactly what is going to the film. Never have
to buy aux. viewfinders.

CCD size - the size of the CCD is directly related to the quality of the image it
produces. I am not entirely sure why, but it is. Dynamic range and
resolution are the major factors. Also, some of the sensors, like the
one in the S3 pro by Fuji (thanks to the poster who showed me that),
use two different breeds of sensor to capture higher range. Those little
compact sensors can't pull that off.

Other benefits of DSLRs Battery packs, accessories, manual controls (my D70 gave me more control over the shot than any film camera - I had control over exposure, aperture, ISO, white balance, grain, contrast, sharpness, etc) - don't get that with most of the little guys. Also, the DSLRs look more 'pro'. Some shooters feel puny holding little digitals.

The RD-1 is one option that offers every thing the DSLRs and more, and more.

It accepts more lenses than any DSLR. All the M-range of lenses. Voigtlander, Leica, Zeiss, etc. It has no mirror slap. It is quiet, small, well built, and offers total control just like DSLRs. And it is inconspicuous. You can take DSLR quality shots (or better), while holding something that doesn't attract the eyes of every person in the vicinity. I have not looked through the VF of the RD-1, but I am sure it is just as nice as any DSLR. THe only thing you give up, is the ability to see, TTL, the exact perspective of any lens you use. But, you get that LCD at 2 inches.

Really, all factors taken into consideration, the RD-1 offers more options, will take better pictures, and is smaller. Only issue is, if you have a million Canon or Nikon lenses and zero M-mount lenses, you will have to buy lenses.

05-23-2005, 13:20
Deep down, I know I'd be happier with an R-D1 - if for nothing else other than its size. As of right now, only one of my Canon lenses besides the 50mm hasn't sold yet, so I should be able to afford the Summilux 35mm f/1.4 that I want. Now, I just have to see if I can scratch together enough for the R-D1 body (since selling my 20D and 50mm lens will only get me about half of what I need).

I guess the short version of my main question has to do with the learning curve. Is it difficult to learn to use a rangefinder? I understand the whole perspective issue, I think, but I've read of many QC problems with the R-D1 that most of you know how to identify and fix because you're experienced with rangefinders. If I get my R-D1 in the mail and start to play with it, how will I know if it has one of those alignment issues people keep talking about? Is it obvious that something's wrong with it when you get it, or do you need a rangefinder-trained eye to spot the problem?

I'm sorry; I know these posts are rather involved. I really want this to work out for me because I can't afford another costly switch after this (I already upgraded my canon once before, and I've swapped lenses multiple times in the quest for one I liked).

Sean Reid
05-23-2005, 13:53
I may be able to help you with this question but I would need to more about specifically what kind of professional work you'd want to use the camera for and who you imagine your clients to be. The R-D1 is going to be very well-suited to some professional work and not well-suited to others. Be as specific as you can about what you want to do with the camera and we can give you a better sense of how it will work out.



05-23-2005, 14:24
Thank you to everyone who has replied. In response to the last post from Sean, I'll try to be even more specific than I was in my original post.

As I said before, I'm mostly interested in photojournalistic work and fine art photography, but I haven't had the opportunity to do much of it yet - I'm particularly interested in travel photography. I like candids the most; I'm not into taking posed pictures unless they're like environmental portraits such as those one would take while traveling in a different culture, and I don't like manufactured scenes like advertisements, fashion, still lifes (unless they were already that way when I found them in nature). I'm not sure I could even bite my tongue long enough to do a corporate job that required me to shoot things I wouldn't be shooting on my own (For instance, I wouldn't shoot any subject matter for industries that made me uncomfortable). That stuff doesn't interest me at all. I want to shoot things I'm passionate about: environment, travel, culture, animals.

I think perhaps a good niche for me to get into for client work, at least until I can afford to finance around-the-world photo trips, would be pet photography. I really enjoy trying to capture an animal's soul in photographs. Knowing what they do about my personality and my passions, my spouse and my professors all have suggested this genre to me on multiple occasions, and I don't think it's very well represented where I live. Then again, I don't know if it's something people want here or if it's more suited to a more progressive part of the country.

I want to be as unobtrusive as possible and I want to shoot all day long without coming home with a backache. I want my gear to take exceptional, professional-quality pictures (of course, I know it's the photographer not the camera, but you know what I mean) but I don't want my camera to scream "car-priced professional camera" even if it is just as expensive as a DSLR. I want to stop worrying about equipment and start focusing on improving my work and mastering my style, but I feel bogged down with this Canon 20D. I feel as if the camera's running me and not the other way around. I want to carry my camera everywhere I go, every time I leave the house.

When I'm starting out, I'll probably take on other jobs as well because I expect it will take me a while before I have enough income to "pick and choose," if you know what I mean. If I do weddings, it will be in a photojournalistic style because "photo studio" portraits aren't my cup of tea - I think I would get bored doing that. I'm interested in really truly learning photography, not just making money from it, although I will need to make at least enough to survive. I can always supplement my income with web design and by selling prints, but I think I'll probably have to attract some contracted clients if I want to keep from starving.

I hope this is the information you were looking for. If not, I'll gladly elaborate more if it will help.

Thanks again for responding everyone!

EDIT: Also, I have my heart set on the Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph, but the cheapest I can find it is $2650. I know in your articles on Luminous Landscape, you gave glowing reviews of the Cosina Voigtlander lenses. I just checked the prices on those and it seems one could buy 7-8 of those for the price of the one Leica lens. I've always been taught that with lenses, you get what you pay for. Is this always true, or are they mostly talking about the difference between regular and "L" canon glass, for instance?

I'm not willing to sacrifice quality, but I don't want to assume that nothing but the Leica lens will achieve it. If I were to go with Voigtlander glass, I'd probably get a 12mm lens plus D-viewfinder (plus I'm also under the impression I'd need a screw-to-bayonet adapter of some kind to use the CV lenses on the R-D1, but I could be wrong) as well since I'd have more money left over and I like extreme wide-angle shooting for landscapes.

I couldn't tell too much of a difference from your online crops, but my eye's not yet trained as well I suspect. Any advice on this?

05-23-2005, 15:26
I can't answer (or even address, to some extent,) all of your questions, but as someone who has used both SLRs and RFs (including Leica,) I don't think anything you have stated about the type of photography you want to do, nor your aesthetic, should keep you from getting an RF. I can't speak to the R-D1, as I have not handled one much less owned it, but I do covet it. :D

That being said, the major difference I see between an RF and an SLR (digital or otherwise) is macro/close focus. I have been considering moving primarily to RF after shooting with Olympus OM for many, many years. But I don't think I will ever completely ditch the OMs because of macro.

But for the general work you describe (journalistic approach, reportage, travel, candid, etc.,) the RF is the way to go. And I totally share your preference for minimal equipment, light weight, bare essentials, etc.

On a final note: You are an intelligent, thoughtful person. I understand the concern over potential clients not taking you seriously if you don't shoot with Canon or Nikon. My guess is that the quality of your work will outweigh clients who are shallow enough to focus on brand.

Follow your vision.


05-23-2005, 15:31
Another thought regarding status-concerned clients: Who can complain about shots made with a Summliux?


05-23-2005, 18:25
As a suggestion for learning the ways of a rangefinder: before you go and sell everything just to get an R-D1, get ahold of a Canonet or a Yashica GSN camera, and shoot about half a dozen rolls of film through it. You'd be using a rangefinder patch, getting the mechanics down, etc., and you can use 1 hour labs and color film to figure out whether you're getting it.

The R-D1 works just like a manual rangefinder camera because it is--with a CCD instead of film. So I suggest you get comfortable shooting with a film Rangefinder first, one that you can trade back onto ebay once you're done playing--besides, if you order an R-D1 be prepared to wait a while as they are usually back-ordered.

I'd also suggest only getting 2 or 3 lenses max once you get the R-D1, then gradually adding what you think you need. You don't have to own Leica lenses to get great quality shots. I have the 50 f/1.5 Nokton VC lens, and it's a beaut. The 28 1.9 Ultron VC is also an amazing lens, and both together are less than $600, and will blow away anything you shot on the D70.

You can do a 28, 35, 50 kit with VC lenses for under $1G. Then you can add a 12mm or 15mm ultra wide and finder, for about $600 more at most. Short telephoto is more problematic with the R-D1, as it is NOT suited for anything > 90mm or faster than f/2 at that aperture. You'd have to focus with the range finder and then compose with the aux finder, which is a PITA.

And you're right--it's a perfect companion camera. I bring my R-D1 everywhere with me. I usually have the 35 f/2.5 pan or the 28 Ultron lens attached to it, and it sits in my work bag, ready to pull out for shots around the area. The only things it can't do are macro and close-up sports. For that, i still have the 20D and a 70-300 lens. I don't use much else with the 20D, as it is a behemoth.

Sorry for the rambling reply, but I think you'd find it easy to slip into using an R-D1 once you get used to film rangefinders for a few weeks. They really function quite the same.


Sean Reid
05-23-2005, 18:48
The lens question first, because it's easiest.... I find the Leica 35/1.4 Asph to be the best 35mm lens I've ever used, hands down. I find its way of drawing to be just magical. So, yes, there is a difference. The Zeiss 35/2.0, however, is a compelling lens as well (different drawing, different strengths and weaknesses) and it only costs $1000.00 The CV 35/1.7 is a very good lens which I own and use professionally. I don't love it the way I love the Leica 35 but it does a workmanlike job and the price is right. You can certainly produce very high quality files with the R-D1 and the better CV lenses. They are sufficient to satisfy an art director, a stock agency, etc. They can be used for a double page spread quite successfully.

I think you've got a lot to figure out and an interesting road to follow. The reality is that if you do work professionally you will own several cameras...and you'll change them around...and you'll lose money each time but that will be OK because a good camera soon pays for itself in terms of the work it produces. I'd suggest buying a used Bessa rangefinder and an inexpensive but good lens, like the CV 35/2.5. Use it for a month or so and see how you like rangefinders. Then sell it, go back to digital and either keep your camera or get an R-D1.

The R-D1 can be used for mostly any professional work that a traditional rangefinder can be used for (except that one must keep in mind its small RAW buffer - never a problem for me but problematic for some others). I think rangefinders are at their best working with lenses of 18 - 75mm (FOV in 135mm film camera terms). They're not great when used very close up, as mentioned above, and they're not great for long lenses (IMHO). With long lenses on a rangefinder one is either looking at a tiny patch of the viewfinder or focusing with the primary finder and framing with an aux. finder on the shoe. Neither is desirable, in my experience. If those animals are going to sometimes be far away from you then an SLR may be a better bet. People do use 90mm lenses on the R-D1 (135mm FOV) but I wouldn't.
One of the great Vietnam war photographers, whose name escapes me right now, shot Leicas when he could get in close and SLRs when he couldn't. That's about the way I work.
If you like rangefinders, you'll likely end up owning both kinds of bodies and using each as needed.

So...try a Bessa and use it for a month or so doing the kind of work you want to be doing for the next 6 mos. (let's say). It's worth fussing with film for a month to try out the camera type. If it works and you love to use it, perhaps get the R-D1. A year or two from now your camera needs may be very different from what they seem to be right now. As such, its usually best to get the tool you need for the work you plan to do in the near future.

Don't worry about the brand of your camera, per se, with respect to perceived professionalism. If your work is good, no one that matters to your career will likely care about that. Stock agencies and magazines usually set a minimum requirement of 6MP on an APS-C sensor camera and the R-D1 meets that standard.



Sean Reid
05-23-2005, 18:50
Ken just made the same suggestion about the film RF while I was typing.


05-23-2005, 19:43
Does it really matter which body? B&H has a Bessa-L that comes with a 25mm Skopar f/4.0 lens for $368.95. Is that a good one? I've never really used a film camera (short of the old disposables I used to use before I had a clue about real photography), so I'd have to take the rolls to a lab - and another concern is would I be able to sell it for little-to-no loss in a month or two? I'd prefer one as modern as possible (as many features as the R-D1 has, minus the digital sensor of course) without being prohibitively expensive, unless such a suggestion is oxymoronic.

To elaborate on some of the things you've all said:

I originally thought I'd use macro a lot, but I had two macro lenses and rarely used either except as a regular lens, so I just sold them this week in fact. I might want to do some of that in the future, but I won't know until the urge arises. But I can't afford to keep them sitting around at this point. Perhaps I'll have more disposable cash in the future, but right now I can't spare for things I don't use all the time. What about close-up macro filters? Are they incompatible with a rangefinder? Just curious.

Also, I'm not at all interested in shooting sports...not even a little bit. So, I don't really need the burst rate offered by the higher-end EOS models. I can definitely see its usefulness for wildlife photography, but in a way I think it's a crutch that inhibits my growth as a photographer. It's almost like I take too many shots in hopes that one is great instead of being patient and anticipating the decisive moment. I always end up with so many virtually identical files to weed through and I think it slows me down more than I'd like. I realize there are other, less drastic, ways I could remedy this than changing to a rangefinder, but I guess it's the combination of everything that has me leaning in this direction.

According to B&H, they're not backordered on the R-D1, but I guess their online database could be inaccurate. If I do take the plunge, I'd only be getting one lens to start with, the 35mm, then expanding later to include 50, 21 or 28, and 12 or 15.

I don't foresee needing ultra-telephoto capabilities for pet photography, should I decide to market myself toward those clients - because it's not difficult to get close to pets. In fact, pictures of my own dogs turn out much nicer when I'm as close to them as possible without getting slobber on my glass. On a safari in Africa, however, I realize I'd need to break out at least a 400mm monster to get even remotely close enough. But by the time I can afford to go to Africa, I should be able to afford a 1DsMII or an R9/Digital-Module-R anyway, so I'm not too worried about that. The only non-pet animal photography I presently do is of squirrels and rabbits in my backyard or of residents at the zoos.

Ugh, this is driving me batty.


05-23-2005, 20:30
Sounds like your needs are mostly easy to satisfy with RF camera technology. First off, the Bessa-L--isn't that a rf-patch only viewport in the center of the frame, with the expectation that you use an external finder for all framing? I'd say the L is NOT a good example of more traditional RF technology--yes, it's a cheap entry into a LTM lens system, but it's not the same shooting style as the R-D1, with its' viewfinder with various framelines. The closest you can get to this is either a Leica CL and 40mm lens, (around $600) or a Canonet or Yashica GSN, which both have viewfinders with a frameline superimposed in the field, plus an RF patch in the middle.

It's funny -- Sean and I had the same viewpoint, probably because RF shooting is a style of work that is contemplative, and because RF photography is almost a religion in approach, I'd still suggest you find a cheap rangefinder and click away before switching systems. Mostly because it's so darned expensive to switch you'd better be comforable in shootiing rangefinders first.

Why did I switch? Well, I had a Leica CL for a while as my primary film camera, and also a Mamiya 6 RF (think of it as a big 6x6 RF) that I shot while learning B&W technique last year. I loved RF shooting, with the ability to pre-set focus by scale, shoot in low light with high quality results, and just the overall way those cameras just get out of your way. So when the R-D1 came out, I knew it was the camera for me. Since you're not going to be doing much macro, etc., here's another suggestion:

if you really like shooting with rangefinders, get the R-D1, and get a new super-zoom camera with macro mode like the Canon S2 IS to satisfy your needs for those times you want to get a good macro or long telephoto shot. It wouldn't run much more than a lens, and would probably fit in a bag along with the R-D1 kit nicely. I'm thinking of doing this and selling my 20D kit so I don't stay invested in two lens systems.


05-23-2005, 20:39
B&H has a Bessa-R for $299 - according to the picture, it looks quite similar to the R-D1 (I suppose that makes sense since CV actually makes the R-D1 as well).

There's also a Bessa R-3A for $549. It seems better - 1:1 viewfinder, improvements over R2 and earlier models (I'm not familiar with the differences between all of these yet, though, I'm still looking).

There are also rangefinders from Bronica, Mamiya, Hasselblad (XPan, which I assume I don't want for my purposes), etc. But those are much more expensive and are all medium-format so they wouldn't use Leica lenses, correct?

Then, of course, there's the Zeiss Ikon, but it's not released yet and costs more than my 20D - if it were digital, I'd jump at that price.

Also, in Voigtlander lenses, which moniker is best quality? Is there a sort of hierarchy, such as Summilux being the holy grail of Leica? Just curious. So far on B&H I've found Skopar, Ultron, and Nokton. It seems the Skopar ones are less expensive but the Nokton ones have wider maximum apertures. Is this the only difference between them?

I'd prefer not to go with a slower lens, since my favorite is available light photography and I frequently use my Canon Ef 50mm wide open. I really think I need at least f/1.4 or I won't be happy.

05-23-2005, 20:49

I didn't see your reply until I posted my last message. Yes, I did read more on the Bessa-L and found out it is without viewfinder. Definitely not a good choice. I found some others that I posted above, but I haven't found the ones you mentioned yet.

My original idea was to do what you suggested: get the R-D1 for most shooting then using an S2 IS for macro and telephoto (since I don't foresee doing it that often). I'm still leaning in that direction, except the S2 IS doesn't have RAW, only JPG and I really prefer shooting in RAW (funny, when I started I hated it and my first few hundred decent shots were done in JPG - but after that I guess I finally started to get the hang of RAW processing).

I really do want that : to just get the machine out of my way so I can concentrate on what I'm shooting. I frequently get frustrated with my 20D because it's so obtrusive and people are always making comments when they walk by me. I feel like I'm carrying a brick around my neck and at the end of the day I feel like I've been carrying a whole bag of bricks.

I'll keep looking for those other models you mentioned to see what pricing I find.

05-23-2005, 21:36
I would suggest you direct your info-hungry eyes to http://www.cameraquest.com, not only for all the camera and lens info you might need and want but also for good prices on those cameras and lenses. You really can't step into Voigtlander RF cameras without having at least a peek at Stephen Gandy's site. :)

05-23-2005, 21:57
since you're not sure what sort of professional work you'll be doing, hang on to the 20d and 50/1.4. pick up a digicam or film rangefinder while saving up for the r-d1 and summilux. konica minolta has a couple digicams with anti-shake and raw capability (especially the a2 that has a super fine evf), and you can try out rangefinders with a bessa r or compact rf from the 70s. see mr. gandy's profiles on the canonet g-iii and olympus 35rd.

Sean Reid
05-24-2005, 05:32
I would buy a Bessa R which costs less than $300 new (http://www.cameraquest.com/voigrf.htm). Use it with whichever CV lenses you want to.
It has no automatic exposure at all, which is perfect for a beginning professional photographer. One learns a lot by setting a camera manually, as you mentioned above. Have the film scanned to CD and experiment for a couple of months. If you work with it daily, you'll soon know how well you like RF cameras (without having spent $3000).

If new, certainly consider getting it from CameraQuest because Stephen Gandy there is knowledgeable, supports this forum and knows the cameras better than almost anyone in the US. Stephen sells one with a 35/2.5C lens (which is an excellent lens on the R-D1) for $425.00. Otherwise, buy one used. Any lenses you buy for it you can, of course, also use on the R-D1 if you decide to get one.

There aren't many small-sensor cameras that one can use professionally w/o limitations. There are exceptions to that but you may have a hard time selling pictures made with a small-sensor camera to a magazine or stock agency. I generally don't do any professional work with any camera that doesn't have at least 6MP on an APS-C sensor (except for the Olympus E-1).



Jim Watts
05-24-2005, 07:50
Most of the photography that you state you would prefer to do is well suited to rangefinder cameras, but only some experience of shooting with this type of camera will establish whether this camera type really works for you. As you have no experience of rangefinder cameras the only sensible approach is that already stated by Sean & Ken.

Approaching the choice from the opposite direction I brought a Canon 20D in about the middle of last year, but only because I wanted a digital workflow and I thought the R-D1 would not become available in the U.K. and the digital Leica M was a long way off. The 20D is a fine camera capable of professional quality results in a wide range of situations, probably a greater range than the R-D1, but like all cameras it has its drawbacks, weight and size not being the least.

When the R-D1 did appear and I got my hands on one in December of last year I immediately knew it was the better camera for me (not necessarily the better camera) and I had to have one . The reason that it is the better camera for me though is I have already had over 40 years experience of shooting with this type of camera. I know and like what they can do and can accept their limitations. I have had some past experience with SLR's and yes I could have adapted to the 20D and saved spending more money. I have kept it because of the things it can do better than the R-D1, although it does not see much use now because by choice and probably old habits I reach for the R-D1. You need to be sure that any change of equipment is not just the start of some expensive quest for the perfect camera (which does not exist). Its only possible to find a camera (or cameras) that work for you in most situations and the limitations of which do not get in the way of you working.

If you are hoping to work professionally (and want to eat) you may not have the luxury of free choice in the assignments you take, at least in the early stages of your career (I hope you don't find you need to make too many compromises) so some flexibilty in the equipment available to you would be a help. Also no professional I know would consider working on any job without some sort of backup camera.

So keep the 20D if you can. Buy a Bessa, I would suggest the R3A as this is closest to the R-D1 and although more expensive seems to have a better percentage second hand value than the Bessa R, so may be cheaper in the long run. Buy either VC 40mm f/1.4 (no adapter needed) or 35mm VC lens (and adapter) . Work with both cameras for a while and then sell either the R3A or the 20D if you want to still buy an R-D1.

Good luck with your final choice and career.

Peter Klein
05-24-2005, 09:06
The Bessa L has no viewfinder or rangefinder. It's meant for scale-focusing wide angle lenses. The Bessa T has a rangefinder, but no viewfinder. You have to buy viewfinders for each lens you use.

The Bessa R, R2 and R2a have a great viewfinder, somewhere around 0.7x. They actually have an advantage over the Leica M cameras in that a glasses wearer like myself can actually see the entire 35mm frame. My eyes are set back a bit under a prominent brow ridge, so I have to be really careful about eye relief in the cameras I buy. Some glasses wearers with flatter faces than mine don't have the same problem--they can see the 35mm frame fine, and the 28mm frame is only a little cut off.

If you wear glasses, try an R-D1 or an R3a (same 1:1 viewfinder) before you buy. I experimented with an R-D1 at Glazer's in Seattle last weekend, using a few of my Leica and VC lenses. With glasses, I could only use it with a 50mm lens--the 35 and 28mm frames were partially cut off in my field of vision. Even with the 50, I could not see the shutter speed indication in the viewfinder without shifting my eye and the camera a bit. Which means I could only use the R-D1 comfortably when I wear my contact lenses, or be stuck with only a moderate tele view (50mm on the R-D1 being the equivalent of about a 75mm lens on a 35mm film camera).

That said, I really like the R-D1. If it cost about half what it does and had a .7x viewfinder like the R2(a), I'd buy it in a minute. As it is, I'm probably going to wait and see what Leica and Zeiss come out with before I leap. But the wait is hard, and the R-D1 is tempting.

I'm a confirmed rangefinder person--I've been using Leicas for years, and prefer the rangefinder way of focusing and seeing 95% of the time. And the R-D1 pictures I took are as good or better than any comparable DSLR shots I've seen. ISO 1600 is only a little noisier than the Canon 20D, very usable. ISO 400 and 800 are less noisy/grainy than comparable film. So it's a very viable available light camera.

And the pictures at all ISOs appear a bit more detailed than any other DSLR I've tested. It is a 6mp digital camera, so at a certain degree of magnification, film has more detail. But the pictures are more satisfying from the detail standpoint than any other DSLR camera I've seen in the 5-8 mp class. I know the pitfalls of generalizing based on in-camera JPGs shot in and around a camera store under time pressure. But even taking that into account, the R-D1 is one amazing camera.

Hope this helps!


05-24-2005, 09:45
Thanks to everyone for your responses. It's all helped a lot.

I've found five small camera shops in Des Moines (I live in a pseudo-suburb about 8 miles north) - I've only been to two of them before. I'm going to check them out to see if maybe they have some rangefinders tucked away in a glass case in a place I didn't notice before. The biggest one, which I've been to before, is a major Canon/Nikon DSLR cheerleader (at least whenever I've been there), so even if they did have a few rangefinders somewhere they'd probably try to talk me out of it (they've always tried to talk me out of third-party lenses in the past as well and they like using "protection" filter hard-sell tactics). There's another shop about a half-hour north of here, but they always push Promaster products no matter what you come in there for. I'll only go there if I can't find one anywhere else. I'll probably end up ordering online from B&H or CameraQuest because the shops here always have super-inflated pricing, but I'd really like to touch one and play around with the buttons a bit before chunking down the money.

I'll be looking for Bessa R-3A probably (or the R or R-2). My vision is good enough to pass a driver's test, but I need glasses or contacts at night if I don't want to see glaring halos. I've had Lasik surgery, so my situation is a bit unique because my vision has deteriorated in the five years since then. Hopefully, a 1:1 viewfinder will work for me because I would prefer it to other options, especially since it will give me the best idea of what the R-D1 would be like. To start out, I'll probably go with a 35mm or 40mm lens at f/2 or better - preferably f/1.4. It just depends on if I can find anything used but in exceptional condition. I kind of have a phobia of buying used things, even though people buy used things from me on eBay all the time. I guess I'm always afraid I'll be the unlucky one. Bizarre, I know.

If anyone has any further advice or words of wisdom, I'm all ears. I'll probably keep this web page open in a browser tab for a few more days just to see what you all have to say.

Thanks again for your help and for taking the time to read my novel-length ramblings. :)

Benjamin Marks
05-24-2005, 09:55
First of all, let me say, with some sympathy, that I understand your motivations. But let me save you $5,000 with some free advice. Don't buy the RD-1 and 35/1.4 now. Don't do it. Tourtured logic and a little autobiography follow.

I am surprised that no one here is advocating buying used equiptment to get your feet wet in RF. The biggest hit you are going to take financially is buying new and selling used. For getting into RF, my advice is this: find a gently used Bessa-R and a used C/V screwmount lens (the 50/1.5 or one of the 35s). The whole kit should cost less than $450 with a warranty and you will get most of that $$ back on re-sale. Then shoot 100 rolls of film over the course of a year (keep the 20D and 50/1.4 for now). The committment to shooting 100 rolls of film this year is your research investment. If you want to work in PS, have your negatives scanned. And during the year, see whether you can live without a zoom and without macro capability and without TTL flash. These can be great limitations, but you have to be prepared to work with them. I mention this because although I think it is the photographer who makes the picture rather than the camera, you will be changing a lot of variables at the same time when you move from an autofocus digi-Canon to the RD-1.

After you have shot with a rangefinder for a year THEN see whether the R-D1 or something like it is what you want. You can even keep your C/V lens and use it on the Epson if it turns out you like what the lens does. It is my opinion that the camera and lens you use is ultimately irrelevant -- they do not make the picture, they are just the last link in the chain. The first and most important link in that chain is the grey matter between your ears. Keep in mind that the product cycles in digital are rediculously short. If you bought a Leica M6 in 1990, you'd have been able to use it heavily for 10 years and sell it for at least half of what you'd paid for it, more if you'd taken good care of it. I predict that the RD-1 will be worthless (WORTHLESS) in 5 years. Now I own one, and I like it a lot. But I knew that I was committing financial folly when I bought it. I just don't see a quickly depreciating $3,000 camera and a $2,800 lens as practical for a student with massive preexisting financial responsbilities. Now I don't mean this as mean. In 1991, I traded in a Pentax LX and a suitcase full of lenses and plunked down $1,000 for a new Nikon F4s and an autofocus 50/1.4 because I had exactly the impulses you do now. My rationale was that I was going to be working for a newspaper in the middle east and I had already learned the hard way that Pentax did not have a good distribution system for parts and repair there (try completing an assignment when the re-wind knob to your camera has fallen off somewhere in the desert). I also thought that autofocus was going to help be catch all those photos I had been missing. I still have the F4, but I would have been better served had I spent the money on film and paper at the time, because my photos did not change qualitatively as a result of the technology I rationalized purchasing.

Now (and here is where I prove that I understand where you are coming from) if the preceeding seems like I have glossed over your original post and have sidestepped your concerns you are completely free to ignore the rant. I too have felt the cold sweat of having made an utterly irrational purchase of camera equipment that I could not afford. And you know what? I treasure every piece of gear that I've picked up under those circumstances and regretted selling every camera that I've traded away (still missing that old LX too, for that matter). But what I really wish is that my vision was more refined, that my photography elicited deeper emotion from those viewing it and that the grey matter between my ears was fully equal to the quality of the gear I use.

Best of luck,

Ben Marks

05-24-2005, 10:06
I am surprised that no one here is advocating buying used equiptment to get your feet wet in RF. The biggest hit you are going to take financially is buying new and selling used. For getting into RF, my advice is this: find a gently used Bessa-R and a used C/V screwmount lens (the 50/1.5 or one of the 35s). The whole kit should cost less than $450 with a warranty and you will get most of that $$ back on re-sale.

Actually, Ben, a new Bessa R plus 35/2.5 C lens costs $425 from CameraQuest. So no need to buy one second hand at all.

Benjamin Marks
05-24-2005, 10:30
Actually, Ben, a new Bessa R plus 35/2.5 C lens costs $425 from CameraQuest. So no need to buy one second hand at all.

Right you are! I have a very clean Bessa-R and a 35/1.7 that I am going to be selling soon too, so that's good to know. By the way, I followed the link to your webblog. Great list of films!

Ben Marks

Benjamin Marks
05-24-2005, 10:31
Actually, Ben, a new Bessa R plus 35/2.5 C lens costs $425 from CameraQuest. So no need to buy one second hand at all.

Right you are! I have a very clean Bessa-R and a 35/1.7 that I am going to be selling soon too, so that's good to know. By the way, I followed the link to your webblog. Great list of films!

Ben Marks

05-24-2005, 11:19
Is it possible that one of the shops you know can rent equipment for a weekend ? This way you can try somtehing to see if it is really something you want. No one camera ever really satisfies what kind of jobs may come your way. The best is to have both - a rangefinder and a slr. If you just can afford one, a slr is much more versatile. If your 20D is too big, why not try a film slr like an Olympus Om1, or some other brand? They will all be smaller then the 20D, which in its own right is a fantastic camera.

05-24-2005, 11:27
On the other hand, it might be well advised that you stick with what you have until you know exactly who you are in relative terms to the type of work you want to do and the clientele you want to attract. Judging from your posts, you have not done much in producing imagery. Certain cameras as to the kinds of tools they are, may help, but I would suggest again, instead of buying and selling your equipment, is to stick with what you have until you really know what it is you want to do. Sticking to one thing, one camera, might help you to develop your style and create imagery you might not have been able to do with all of your equipment trading.

Sean Reid
05-24-2005, 12:31
Ben wrote:

"I am surprised that no one here is advocating buying used equiptment to get your feet wet in RF."

Actually, I mentioned this several posts back.

"The biggest hit you are going to take financially is buying new and selling used."

True, but if one buys an inexpensive body and keeps the lenses there isn't so much of a hit.

"It is my opinion that the camera and lens you use is ultimately irrelevant."

I disagree. The camera can have a large effect on the way one works and sees the subject.

"I predict that the RD-1 will be worthless (WORTHLESS) in 5 years."

I disagree completely. The R-D1, like any camera, will retain value so long as it can produce pictures. I've been using primarily digital cameras for five years now and each one dropped to about 1/2 it's original value when I sold it after using it for about two years. But the camera only loses value when and if you sell it. My 1Ds has dropped in market value by about $3000 but I have no plans to sell it and it's earned me much more than $3000. Any digital camera will drop in value over time but a good one doesn't become worthless. Moreover, there are some tax benefits to the depreciation. For any given camera, I think the question a professional needs to ask is: "Will this camera earn me at least it's purchase price?" If the R-D1 is the right tool for the job, one can pay for it with the first assignment it's used for. All the money it earns after that puts food on the table.

I do agree with the advice about not getting in over one's head financially although insidertravel's financial situation is unknown to me and none of my business. For photographers who are on a budget, I do think it makes sense to spend money on equipment in proportion to what one is earning from photography.



Benjamin Marks
05-24-2005, 13:51
I disagree completely. The R-D1, like any camera, will retain value so long as it can produce pictures. I've been using primarily digital cameras for five years now and each one dropped to about 1/2 it's original value when I sold it after using it for about two years. But the camera only loses value when and if you sell it. My 1Ds has dropped in market value by about $3000 but I have no plans to sell it and it's earned me much more than $3000. Any digital camera will drop in value over time but a good one doesn't become worthless. Moreover, there are some tax benefits to the depreciation. For any given camera, I think the question a professional needs to ask is: "Will this camera earn me at least it's purchase price?" If the R-D1 is the right tool for the job, one can pay for it with the first assignment it's used for. All the money it earns after that puts food on the table.

Sean: my experience has been the same as your viz the cameras that I use. No question that a 2 1/4 square presents a different canvas than 4x5 (or any other format) and the size and hand-holdability of the camera influences how you approach your subject. All very true. Speaking for myself, the differences are greater between formats (e.g. 8x10 to 35mm) than within formats (Hassie vs. Rollei TLR or Nikon vs. Leica), but of course your mileage will vary. I was trying to be helpfully skeptical of the notion that to do documentary photography or candid portrature you'd be inherently better off with an Epson RD-1 and a 35 Summilux than the 20D and whatever fixed lens you chose (particularly if the 20D was the camera you had in hand). It is possible that one would be hobbled aesthetically, of course, but I tend to think that the development of one's aesthetic or vision or style (whatever it is that we are trying to offer the world) can be developed without vast outlays of cash.

Now as for the "worth" of the RD-1 over time you are correct in everything you say up to a point. And certainly my ALLCAPS language about worthlessness was hyperbole. But I think where we depart ways on this one has to do with how we use cameras. I am now an amateur and so there are no tax benefits for me to depreciation. I tend to think of value in terms of what I could "trade in" or sell for today to purchase something else. If I had bought a Fuji S-1 five years ago, for $2500 (or whatever they were selling for), I'd only be able to sell it today for around $525. That's what KEH sells it for. True, that is not worthless, but it is a steep slide. We are now up to the Fuji S-3 which sells for $2,500 or so at B&H and elsewhere. I did buy one of the first Sony digicams in 1997 when they were selling for $600 or so (DCS-20???); the software that came with it will not work with my XP computer, the screen on the back of the thing is all wonky; the imaging chip dumps everything into low values, the price to fix it is prohibitve . . . so I would say that it is worthless. I suppose that this is the case you discussed above when you said that a camera will retain value so long as it can produce pictures.

As for the RD-1, which I think we both use with enthusiasm, I hope it will be replaced with an RD-2 some day. When that happens (and I think that if it happens it will be on a shorter product cycle than from the M6 to the M7, for instance) our RD-1s will be like that Fuji S-1 that KEH is selling (and remember, KEH has to make a profit too, so they probably purchased it for $300 or so). I am leaving aside what will happen if SD cards are no longer produced in 5 years or if Epson stops supporting the electronics/firmware of the RD-1 or any of the other technical bugbears that no doubt await us pounce. I also assume that the shutters in our cameras are more like that in a Nikon FG than the one in an M6. When support becomes an issue, professionals who use this (or any) camera to put food on the table will say, "I need to know that my repair guy/gal can get this turned around to me in the field pronto, because otherwise -- no f8 and be there!" Hence my Pentax LX trade-in last century. ;-)

Whether the RD-1 is the right tool for the job is something that the original poster will have to decide for him/herself, of course. But, for myself, I would not advise someone unfamilliar with rangefinders who owns a perfectly fine DSLR and has outstanding student loans to sell it at a loss and purchase an RD-1 and a 35 Summilux in order to embark on a career as a professional photographer. It would be like telling a recent college grad to go into debt to buy a Maseratti, when your Ford will get you where you need to go.

Sean Reid
05-24-2005, 15:45
I agree with your last paragraph, which is one reason, I think, that many of us have recommended starting with an inexpensive rangefinder to test the waters.

In my mind there can be profound differences in the way one makes pictures with a rangefinder vs. an SLR. Rather than repeat my reasoning for this, I'll just link my R-D1 review where I discussed this aspect.
As such, the choice of SLR vs. rangefinder can indeed be very important to one's development as a photographer. Weight can also be important, as can size, the loudness of a shutter, the way the lenses draw, etc..

Digital cameras will depreciate, to be sure. The best ones seem to drop to about 50% of their value after two years. But let's say, shooting low, that an R-D1 is worth $1000 in two years. The question of value is still moot then unless one is planning to sell the camera. If it's still working hard and making good pictures, the resale value is irrelevant. If one is planning to sell it, the question then becomes: "Was it worth $2000 to me to use this camera for two years?" Since a working professional can often earn that much with the R-D1 in just one assignment, my answer to that question is a resounding "absolutely, yes!" It is, indeed, a different matter depending on whether or not one earns money with his or her equipment. My D30 was bought for $3000 in 2000 and sold for $1000 in 2002. My first 10D was bought for $1500 in 2003 and sold for $750 in 2005. My 1Ds cost $7200 in 2002 and is still in use. I bought my second 10D used for $750.00 just last month. So far, I've lost $2750 buying and later selling digital cameras (leaving aside tax benefits). Has it been worth it? - yes! Film and darkroom costs alone for the pictures made with those cameras would have cost much more than $2750, etc..

Insidertravels is planning to become a professional photographer. As such, she's going to need to look at equipment investment much differently than someone who does this as a hobby. Her task will be to get the tools she needs to do the work well and be paid well for it. That doesn't happen overnight and of course the more one's professional career develops, the more flexibility one has when buying equipment. I do think, however, that testing the waters with a film rangefinder is a practical step to take for anyone (who is new to RF cameras) when he or she may be spending $3000 on an R-D1 (unless that amount is quite affordable for him or her).

So, we're in agreement about spending reasonably for equipment initially (unless cashflow is not an issue) but have different perspectives on:

1) The "value" of an R-D1 over time.
2) The degree to which differences among cameras (and by extension, among lenses) can be important to one's work.



05-24-2005, 16:33
Insider: You have not stated the obvious, to wit, where you are located so that if perchance someone on RFF who owns an R-D1 lives realtively nearby might be able to provide you with a hands-on experience.


05-24-2005, 17:59
First off for the poster who asked, I'm in Central Iowa (about 8 miles north of Des Moines).

Secondly, I accidentally found a Leica dealer today. He was in a small business complex with no retail storefront. And according to countless sources, he's the only Leica dealer in the area (others can order from Leica, but none stock it, and apparently there are no Voigtlander dealers here because nobody knows who the new distributor is - I kept mentioning CameraQuest, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about). Actually, he usually works by appointment only, but I didn't know this and happened to show up when the UPS guy had just left so the door was unlocked. He was very congenial and quite helpful. He let me play with an M6 for a while (with a summicron 35mm f/2.0. After today, I'm very excited about the prospect of using a rangefinder now that it's been explained to me while I'm actually looking at one and holding it in my hand and I've had a chance to actually focus with one. It's much easier than I thought it would be from the descriptions I've read online. I was surprised how easy it was, actually.

This dealer is very trustworthy and every camera shop in town recommends him as the resident Leica expert. He tends to sell barely used mint-condition Leica gear that have been sold back to him by doctors and lawyers and such who bought one for stupid "prestige" reasons then never used it. It was literally like brand new, and had he not told me it was used, I'd have never guessed. He's selling it for what I consider a steal for a Leica M6 (only $1200 for the body, that's good, right?), and even though this particular one has the silver top and bottom, he said he gets them in all the time so he could have a black one any day (I think I'd prefer black, but we'll see). The good news is I won't have to sell my Canon 20D to afford one, should I decide to buy from him. He also spoke with me about the possibilities of mixing Leica and Voigtlander equipment, should I decide that's better for me, and he wasn't down-talking Voigtlander even though he only sells Leica.

What I need to know, though, before purchasing a film camera of any kind is what is the maximum resolution I can get out of a 35mm negative or slide scan? Some of the people I talked to today gave me different numbers...one said a top-of-the-line flim/slide scanner could produce 40 megapixel files, the other said 40 MB files. Which is more accurate? And using digital scans from 35mm film, what is the largest-sized print I could make without discernable loss in quality (I realize this is subjective and dependant upon the quality of the original negative as well)?

If I do get a film camera as my second body (to go along with my 20D, since as practically everyone said, I need at least two bodies on every professional job - especially to account for unexpected malfunctions and such), I would want to have a lab process the film negatives and scan them to CD at maximum resolution. Is this possible, or would I have to buy an expensive film scanner and do it myself?

I know I'm taking up a lot of time from all of you...I'm sorry for that. I guess I'm always just trying to learn as much as I can and sometimes don't realize when I start to become a pain in the rear. ;)

Benjamin Marks
05-25-2005, 07:52
What I need to know, though, before purchasing a film camera of any kind is what is the maximum resolution I can get out of a 35mm negative or slide scan? Some of the people I talked to today gave me different numbers...one said a top-of-the-line flim/slide scanner could produce 40 megapixel files, the other said 40 MB files. Which is more accurate? And using digital scans from 35mm film, what is the largest-sized print I could make without discernable loss in quality (I realize this is subjective and dependant upon the quality of the original negative as well)?

Insidertravels: I think $1,200 is a great price for an M6 in good condition with a warranty!

Regarding resolution there are a couple of things to think about (and I am sure there are list-members who know more about this than I do). The maximum resolution that you can get out of a negative is often expressed in terms of lines per mm. This is very much dependant on a) your technique (e.g. tripod or no-tripod, choice of shutter speed etc.), b) quality of light c) contrast of your subject d) choice of lens, film, developer and so on. Lens testers (I am thinking of someone like Erwin Puts here) will set up the camera parallel to a test chart a certain number of focal-lengths' distance away and see with a given film and lens and developer how fine a level of detail they can resolve in various areas of the negative. The test charts have pairs of lines and the resolution of the lens in a test like this is expressed as the smallest set of lines (or the closest together) that you can see before the image all turns to mush.

Resolution of a scanner has to do with the amount of information that can be fit into your scan of an image. (and here's where my understanding drops off, so chime in list-members). The size of the scan (in megabytes, say) is related to, but not the same as resolution of the scanner. For instance, many scanners will allow you to interpolate your scans to make huge files (you are treating the scanner a little like an enlarger in this case). But the equivalent to lines per millimeter in the lens context (what you are interested in if we are talking about resolution) is how many dots per inch (dpi) the scanner can get out of a negative without interpolation. Interpolation in this case is fancy-talk for the machine or program making a guess about data to fill in between two known points. It is not uncommon to find a scanner that will scan at 4000 dpi. The size of the file (how many megabytes) will depend on whether you are scanning in color (data for red, blue and green) or just black and white (one third as much data and hence one third the size of a color file of the same subject) and what your bit-depth is (8-bit, 16-bit). Without going too far afield, bit-depth is a way of measuring how much data is associated with each pixel (a higher bit-depth means more data, allows more manipulation without degrading the image and can produce some whoppingly huge files).

For reasons of price and practicality, 13x19 is the largest print that I have made from a 35mm scanned negative at 4,000 dpi. I really am not sure what the practical upper limit is if price of the media were no object.


Apologies in advance for (maybe) making the waters more muddy. Criticism, corrections and calumny welcome!

best regards,

Ben Marks

05-25-2005, 08:08
Gentlemen, with all respect, this forum has gotten way overblown........

Resale value of cameras? Cost effectiveness? :bang:

This has gone way above and beyond the scope of Insidertravels knowledge and what he/she needs at this time.

05-25-2005, 08:45
4800 dpi is what a "consumer"neg scanner can do nowadays, without interpolation. Hi-end pro neg (drum) scanner can go even higher. I generally scan my negs at 2880 dpi, which results in scans of some 6 MB TIF-files.

I think 13'x19' might be a good size though all depends on from which distance the print is seen. There are companies which can turn a 35mm neg into a billboard sized print, which are generally not viewed from just a few feet away.

05-25-2005, 10:31
Gentlemen, with all respect, this forum has gotten way overblown........

Resale value of cameras? Cost effectiveness? :bang:

This has gone way above and beyond the scope of Insidertravels knowledge and what he/she needs at this time.
To some extent, but the original and follow-up posts by Insidertravels mentioned cost considerations (including resale if he did not find an RF to suit him) and thus was at least part of the original question. When you're just starting out and on a limited budget, you have to juggle a lot of considerations. :angel:

I'm just glad he found a knowledgeable Leica dealer who is not a total zealot and seems to be giving him sane advice.


05-25-2005, 10:52
To some extent, but the original and follow-up posts by Insidertravels mentioned cost considerations (including resale if he did not find an RF to suit him) and thus was at least part of the original question. When you're just starting out and on a limited budget, you have to juggle a lot of considerations. :angel:

I'm just glad he found a knowledgeable Leica dealer who is not a total zealot and seems to be giving him sane advice.


Quite possibly Insidertravels is thinking well too ahead of the game, when one should be concentrating on making images and from there, getting work.

05-25-2005, 11:12
kbg32: It certainly is possible to "over-think" this stuff. Been there, done that. Every time I notice myself doing that, I have to force myself to grab a camera with one lens, and just make some pictures. It sorta worked for HCB.


05-25-2005, 13:00
For the most part, the advice you've all given has been very helpful (especially the super-long posts from Sean and Ben - whew, I hope you can type as fast as I can, because I'd hate to think you spent hours composing your responses). I'm grateful to have learned so much from this thread. I most appreciate those who've taken the time to go into depth with technical details. Much of it I was already familiar with, especially where DSLR photography is concerned, but I learned some extremely useful things that some posters apparently think you shouldn't have told me because they wrongfully assume it's over my head. I fear that some people who replied aren't giving me enough credit as an intelligent, driven person who knows what she wants and understands that asking questions is the ony way to expand one's knowledge. Then again, it's more difficult to correctly interpret words on a screen than it is face-to-face dialogue. I suppose a tone-of-voice indicator of some sort would be helpful :)

Just for the record, though, I'd like to say that any money I'd be spending on a rangefinder (or whatever second body I decide to purchase) wouldn't be adding to my existing debt. All of the equipment I've sold was purchased as a student, so I think of the very small value loss (I've been able to sell everything for almost as much as I paid for it) as part of my educational expense - and anything new I buy at this point is coming from those same proceeds by virtue of selling items originally bought with student funds and reusing those funds to buy other equipment. My original question didn't really have anything to do with how much the Epson R-D1 costs as much as it had to do with how viable it was as a money-making tool and how high its quality was compared to the 20D I already have. I don't care how much it costs as long as I can use it to make money and create professional results. That said, I have been seriously contemplating the advice given about not spending that much on a body that will depreciate so quickly - and at this point, I haven't made a firm decision either way. I'm really in no absolute hurry, I guess. I have my 20D and I don't suspect Canon will come out with a 30D for at least one more year (assuming they follow their usual upgrade schedule for digital EOS models), so I'm not worried about its resale value at this point.

I do, however, take exception to the few posters who continue to insinuate that I have no knowledge and have taken no pictures therefore cannot possibly know what I'm doing. I've been taking pictures for nearly two years now (Digital Rebel and EOS 20D) - just not for money (I've also shot a couple weddings in the past two months), and although that's microseconds compared to those who've had 40-year careers, I think it's unfair to judge me based solely upon the fact that I mentioned having just finished a degree program and having never used a rangefinder. Had I said I'd never taken any pictures with any camera whatsoever and never had training in photography either, then perhaps some of the less respectful comments would be deserved. Actually, I'm kind of regretting that I even mentioned school at all because it's obviously given some posters a built-in bias against my existing abilities.

:confused: I also can't figure out why a few posters have said I don't even know what kinds of pictures I want to take (apparently therefore I have no business worrying about equipment??). I think I made it quite clear which genres and styles I prefer to shoot, and just because I haven't posted any pictures on this site doesn't mean I haven't taken any. I tend to agree with Sean's theory that developing one's style and vision necessitates a close look at which type of equipment will help to best achieve one's goals. That's one of the main reasons I've been considering a rangefinder in the first place.

As of now, I still haven't decided what to do. I really, really liked the M6 rangefinder I played with yesterday - I just wish it were digital. I may decide to invest in a film-based system, but to be honest I have more misgivings about that than I do about investing in a digital system that will depreciate. I can always write off the losses, but the headaches dealing with film will add to my day aren't necessarily what I had in mind, especially since film will probably be obsolete before the end of the decade, at least for all practical and professional purposes. I'm more interested in "taking pictures" than in developing and scanning negatives. I like being able to put things I've shot online the same day I process the RAW files. I like being able to work from wherever I am with just my camera equipment and my powerbook. I really don't want to be tethered to a darkroom, lab, or even an office for that matter. I want to keep it simple. I don't need, want, or expect to earn six figures per year - ever - unless an inflation spike over the next few decades requires it.

I might ask if it's possible to rent a film rangefinder from that dealer I mentioned. That way I can try it out for more than a half-hour. But I actually think I learn more about photography by having an instant playback with histogram - because I can retake the same shots over and over again until I get them right.

Trius: You're right; I probably AM "overthinking" this stuff. It's my nature to be inquisitive and meticulous like that, which is partly why I've spent so much time trying to "simplify" my life to remove extraneous distractions. My master's degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies, which obviously means I crammed multiple subjects into a self-designed degree program - it's only been a few months since I finally decided to dump the others in favor of full-time photography, so I'm still getting used to the idea of specialization (versus being the generalist I've typically been in the past). Anyway, I've rambled enough now. :)

Benjamin Marks
05-25-2005, 13:38
My original question didn't really have anything to do with how much the Epson R-D1 costs as much as it had to do with how viable it was as a money-making tool and how high its quality was compared to the 20D I already have. I don't care how much it costs as long as I can use it to make money and create professional results.

I'm glad this has all been helpful, or at least food for thought. As far as the comparison goes, for digital cameras, I have the digital rebel (on which I sometimes use Leica-R glass) and the Epson R-D1. Both can produce excellent results, but I reach for my RD-1 before I reach for the Canon (just the way, these days, I reach for a Leica before I reach for a Nikon). I happen to love the RD-1 because I can use my Leica M lenses on it. This thread has gone on long enough, to make it apparant to all but the most casual reader that I have more cameras than sense. :-)

I know one pro in NYC who does a lot of catalog shooting says that she needs at least a 50 Meg file out of her camera to do serious work. Only the larger more expensive DSLRs produce that kind of file at this time. However focussing on the narrow question you've framed above (focus, Ben FOCUS . . .) , I think for what you've said you want to do the RD-1 would work great. From the point of view of a comparison, I know that the 20D is an 8 megapixel camera in comparison to the RD-1's 6 mp, but I don't have a sense of what those two extra megapixels get you in the real world. You should look at some of Sean's excellent wedding photography to see what the camera is capable of in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing -- _great_ candid shots -- and how he, as he says, has used the qualities of the RF platform to help him get the kind of results he is after.

best of luck . . . I think we all know that the goal is to make the pictures.

Ben Marks

Sean Reid
05-25-2005, 13:45

Just ignore the posts that patronize you. It's amazing how much some people think they can infer about someone else based on misreading a couple of posts. I've had it happen to me too on this forum and you'd think some of those folks would know better. C'est La Vie!

I shoot professionally, as you know, and I don't use film at all. Used it for 20 years, still think fondly of it but do not use it to get work done. If your possible destination is an R-D1, I'd still advise that you spend as little as possible experimenting with a film rangefinder. Just get a cheap one and go play with it. As soon as you're convinced that a rangefinder is "you", go get the R-D1 if you can afford it. If it isn't right for you, sell it and away you go with SLRs. If you can hold on to the 20D (or sell it and buy a 10D to free up $700) then you won't have to worry about the things that a rangefinder isn't good at (macro, long lenses, etc.) because you'll have the DSLR for that stuff. I really agree with one thrust of Ben's posts which is: don't spend money you don't need to. Better to save it for the equipment you must buy. An M6 is a great camera but you don't need to spend $1200+ to try a rangefinder. Then again, if you want it, what the heck - the resale value should be good.

To go back to your essential question. Yes, the R-D1 is, in my experience, a wonderful professional tool. Two things about the camera can lead to pictures that may be quite different from those made by a DSLR:

1. You see the world through a framed window rather than on an SLR ground glass. That can have a profound affect on the pictures you make, despite many claims to the contrary.

2. The camera can use some of the most wonderful lenses in the world. You have many kinds of lens drawing styles to choose from. As a rule, I've found many more RF lenses I love than SLR lenses and I've owned and/or tested a lot of both.

Only a small percentage of pros currently work with rangefinders but many of them are at or near the top of their fields. If you're itching for one, do it. But if you really want to work with digital capture, I'd save your money to invest in that when you're ready.

Max print for a 35mm film scan depends on too many variables to have a clear answer. The negative itself sets the limit more than the scanner (since a drum scan can pull everything a 35mm neg has). Up to 13" by 19" though, one can get a good print from either a 6MP APS-C camera or a good 35mm film scan (each one will have it's pros and cons). Beyond that size, one might or might not get a good print from either. It took some art directors a few years to realize that the quality of a file wasn't necessarily tied to MB.



05-25-2005, 16:50

I shoot professionally as well and use both film and digital, as well as rangefinder - my personal preference, and DSLR. It depends on the job at hand, clients needs, etc.. Yes, the kind of camera you use certainly influences the kinds of images that you make.

I was a student once as well and know and understand the financial position you are in. I kept my SLR and did all the work I could with it, all the while saving up for my first rangefinder. It put me in a better position to know and understand what I wanted out of the image making process both professionally and personally.

I personally never got rid of my film SLR, because there were certain jobs that it could do at that time, that a rangefinder could not - precise framing, close focusing, more extensive telephoto lens selection, etc.. In this age of digital one can frame the shot using the LCD screen, knowing pretty much what one is going to capture.

They were lots of good suggestions here. Good luck with your decision. Appologies if you or anyone else misunderstood what I was trying to suggest.


05-25-2005, 16:54
My 6 month old prevented me from jumping into this thread earlier, but I think I still have a few thoughts that address your original post.

First, let me give you a quick background. Like you, I've been shooting DSLRs since the D30 came out. Before that, I shot pics with my father's old Ricoh SLR from the 70s. In school, I took a course on B&W film development and absolutely loved it. Time went on, college came, and my priorities shifted away from photography. At the time, digital SLRs were a break through and cost in the tens of thousands. When the D30 came out, it cost $3k and was a break through. I was able to justify the price and went for it. It rekindled my love for photography. Time went on, and the D60 came out. 1/2 the price of the D30, and twice the pixel count. It also fixed a few other bugs. I could afford it, so I plunked down some $$. It was back ordered; I waited. It arrived. A month later, rumors spread of it being end-of-lifed. A week or two after that, the 10D arrived. It fixed all of the bugs in the D60. That experience destroyed any urge I have ever had to upgrade a digital camera.

I loved the D60, even though it had faults. Low light focusing was abysmal (and was fixed on the 10D, and improved on the 20D). I had a bunch of lenses, and a nice backpack to haul them around with. In the beginning I brought the backpack with me to every event I went to. I was the guy with the SLR and the lenses. After a year or two, I was sick of hauling the camera around with me. It was heavy. I then paired down the lenses I brought with me. Even that wasn't enough. After awhile, I stopped bringing the camera with me, as it was a pain. It was big, it was clunky. But, it took some nice pics. I liked the lenses, and I was getting shots that blew away everyone with their point & shoot digital Elphs. The camera was always in the way. Spontaneous shots were hard to come by, as it involved taking the camera out of the backpack, or finding a place to put it so that I could quickly have access to it. At a restaurant, it became a pain.

Time passed. The number of pictures I took declined. I kept reading though, and stumbled upon some old photography books from highschool on Capa, and some Magnum books. I loved the prints, and I re-discovered the rangefinder. I lusted after a Leica during high school, but could never afford one. I marveled at the pictures that were made with a rangefinder. I also laughed at the pictures of the photogs with multiple range finders slung around their neck. Can't do that with an SLR.

When I heard about the R-D1, I started putting $$ aside. It was the camera that I had been after for years. It was light weight, and extremely portable, and I could change lenses. Best of all, it would take lenses much older than I. There is something to be said for driving vintage cars and shooting with a 70 year old lense.

The R-D1 arrived and I fell in love with it. True portability, zero shutter lag, and manual focus. It fits in my hand perfectly and has become an extension of my eye. It taught me to slow down and think and to rely on myself, not a focusing servo or metering matrix.

When I pickup the D60 now, it feels huge and clunky. It also feels slow. There are no DoF scales on the lenses, and it irritates me. Manually focusing is a pain. The shutter lag is horrendous.

My wife also picked up the R-D1 and fell in love with it. She mainly used point&shoots in the past and was intimidated by the D60. It was too large & clunky. Too many buttons, too many dials. She loves the R-D1 though. The manual focus doesn't bother her, and she is quickly learning about shutter speeds & apertures. She is also taking some great pics.

The R-D1 has also taught me what the SLR is good for though. Macrophotography, gorup shots, telephoto etc. Family portraits are so much easier when you can actually be in the picture ;) Heed the advise of others. I am glad that I kept my DSLRs, as much as I dislike using them now. They serve a purpose.

What do I shoot now? A Leica. I switched back to film and now process in my kitchen sink, and scan the negatives. My wife uses the R-D1 all the time, and the Leica comes with me wherever I go. "Your not taking the R-D1 to work again, are you?". I also can't wait to hand down the Leica to my son when the time is right. I doubt the R-D1 will be functioning at that point. I worry about the batteries & SD cards. Thats another topic though.

Changing topics, are you sure you want to go into photography full time? My hobby has become my career, and it is no longer my hobby. My career has served me well over the years, and has allowed me to indulge in this hobby, but my career is no longer my hobby now. It is a source of stress, and long hours. Photography is an escape for me and has changed the way I look at life and objects around me. I don't want to loose that.

A highschool friend of mine recently got married, and I bumped into an old friend. She is now a professional photog, went to the Kodak school, and shot the wedding professionally. She was the primary photographer, and the stress was on her to get "the pics" and it showed. At that point, I had realized that I don't want the stress of being under the gun to get "the pic" in order to bring in the $$. It is fun to take pictures and sell them if they are good. That is different from doing it day in and day out.

I'm curious to know how many ppl here are full time professional photographers, ie, that is all that they do. I would hazard a guess that most are amateurs and do it as a hobby. For those that are 'full time' has the passion remained through the years? Is it still fun?

Also, you might want to post a similar inquiry over on 'www.robgalbraith.com'. The site is geared towards full time professionals (or atleast was a few years ago)..

So in a nutshell, I went from a DSLR to a RF without using one and loved it. It changed my photography-life, and that of my wife. I'm a convert now and wouldn't trade it for the world. However, my SLRs have aren't going anywhere.

That was a long ramble.. Hope some of it is useful.